It’s noon on a Saturday. Maura’s still in her pj’s, watching Phineas and Ferb, eating the lunch I made her. I’m wearing leggings. I brushed my hair. The kitchen needs cleaning – again. Maura’s room needs cleaning – again. The living room looks like the My Little Pony section of a toy store exploded in it…because it kind of has. There’s bits of yarn fluff all over one couch from Miriam and I making yarn pompoms the night before. I’m contemplating curling up on the sofa with a book.
And yet somehow, I can still feel like I’ve accomplished a lot that day.
I know there are other moms out there who have already done 427 things today, and have a list of still more to accomplish during the weekend. And you know what? That’s okay. Some people have the need to keep busy at all times. Some people like having all the activities to manage. Some people enjoy volunteering for their kid’s stuff. I’m always impressed with those people. Some of that type are my best friends even.
I’m not that person, and THAT’S OKAY TOO, my friend’s still love me right back.
When my sister was here, I half-heartedly apologized for the house being a bit of a disaster. I had hoped to have everything in order before her arrival, life just didn’t want to cooperate. Yet I didn’t feel guilty about it – I had passed the point of caring. Yes, my house was a mess. Yes, I was still doing all the laundry I could so she wouldn’t have to figure out which clothes were Maura’s. Yes, the kitchen was a hot mess at the moment because it had been twenty-four hours or so since anyone did dishes.
But my sister had been here before. She had managed my house before. My sister, who is a young urban single gal, said to me “Yeah, I don’t think I could manage it all either. I mean, you have Maura, and the other three, the house, and Josh works a lot…”
“And if I want to do any writing, forget it.” I added. “If I want to get anything done, it has to be when Maura’s in school. Once she’s home, all bets are off.”
And she got it. Because she knew how things went. Then I did the smart thing and totally paid her to clean my house. Because I am no fool, and she was going to do it anyway.
Really, in a way, becoming Maura’s mom has given me permission to realize that I can’t do it all. I just can’t. Sometimes, hanging with Maura on the couch is more important than doing dishes. Sometimes, having her help me in the kitchen means extra messes. Sometimes, I choose to try to do something major, like clean out a closet, only for it to take three days because I have to stop every five minutes to see what Maura’s up to, or gotten into, or needs help with.
Yet there’s more to it. Some days, the main goal is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other as I wade through anxiety. Breathe, babystep, breathe. Then the next day is about catching up on the most important things that didn’t get done while I was babystepping my way through the day before.
Listen – my kids get fed, all the time. The house isn’t disgusting. Yes, there were potatoes hidden in the back of a cupboard that weren’t supposed to be there and grew into Mutant Potatoes. But they were friendly mutants that didn’t harm anyone. My bathroom can only seem to stay clean for five minutes. My dog knows how to open the flip lid of the bathroom garbage can, ugh. Everyone comes home from school and suddenly there’s an explosion of backpacks, shoes, and dirty dishes from the post-school “snack” (and by “snack” I mean “four fried chickens and a Coke and some dry white toast”. Because teenagers.) It’s just how my life is. It’s a series of minor explosions followed by a day of silence. When Maura is “on” she’s into everything, pulling out everything, trying everything. It’s awesome, but it’s messy. When Maura’s feeling off, it may mean that I spend an hour just sitting on the couch snuggling with her as we watch cartoons. And she has three siblings I still have to help out in various ways – from hair cuts to doctor visits to playing chauffeur. Those regular old mom things. Bathing dogs, paying the electric bill, putting gas in the car on the way to buying yet more groceries.
I may not be doing as much as some people, but I do a lot. It’s just sometimes a bit different.
I don’t do it all though. I just don’t. I can’t. It makes me cranky. I know my limits, I’m still learning how to refuel my tank, I’m still sometimes babystepping my way through the harder days, but that’s okay. I’m still moving forward. Even if my sink is full of dishes, and so not shiny, and there’s a pile of shoes at the front door three feet high because there’s six people in this house and no matter how hard I try to keep it all under control, the shoes crawl back out to the door.
And to be really honest – I don’t want to do it all. I deal with enough not-fun stuff in life that I have to deal with. Excuse me if, in that moment of peace in the house, I decide that sweeping up the dog hair isn’t the biggest priority and sit down with a book instead. The dog hair’s not going anywhere.